New port could bring 1,500 jobs

THE Government has given the go-ahead for a new container terminal at Felixstowe, unlocking a multi-million pound investment in the port and infrastructure while paving the way for 1,500 new jobs.

THE Government has given the go-ahead for a new container terminal at Felixstowe, unlocking a multi-million pound investment in the port and infrastructure while paving the way for 1,500 new jobs.

Transport minister Derek Twigg yesterday announced he had approved the proposals put forward by Hutchison Ports UK, which will see the Languard terminal reconfigured as a deep-sea container port.

The development will add nearly one kilometre of quayside dedicated to the handling of more containers, promising to safeguard its status as one of the premier ports in Europe.

The owners of Felixstowe port will also upgrade both road and rail connections, including improvements to the town's branch line, sections of the east coast mainline, the Dock Spur roundabout and the Copdock Interchange.

It is expected that the first phase of the new terminal will start operation in 2008. When fully up and running, the Felixstowe South development is expected to create 621 direct jobs, with an additional 860 in associated industries.

The Port of Felixstowe, already one of the largest employers in the region, contributes some £70million to the local economy in wages alone.

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The announcement was broadly welcomed in the county last night. Bob Feltwell, from the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “It's brilliant news for the area. Because the Haven ports are growing all the time with more and more international trade, Felixstowe port needed facilities to handle it.

“This development will generate jobs at the port and in surrounding companies that serve the port and those that provide services for families involved in the port.

“With any major capital investment like this a proportion of the funding is used to make infrastructure improvements in road and rail. It should get better and better with more and more business coming through Suffolk.

“As the Government is minded to approve the Bathside Bay development [in Harwich], it is the final piece of the jigsaw to put the Haven Gateway project well and truly on the map.”

Cyril Webb, Felixstowe mayor, said: “I think it will be a major contractual and employment boost. At the town council we welcomed, in principle, the reconfiguration, but we were concerned that it was adjacent to Languard Fort, an ancient monument.”

He said residents living nearby also had concerns about noise levels, light intrusion and traffic but he was confident all the issues would be dealt with in the planning process.

The proposals were the subject of a public inquiry after Hutchison Ports UK appealed when Suffolk Coastal District Council did not make a decision on the application within the official prescribed time-limit.

However, the council said the move was supported at the time by all sides as it brought forward the public inquiry and resulted in a speedier decision.

John Perry, cabinet member for the economy at Suffolk Coastal, said: “This long-awaited decision should safeguard Felixstowe's status as being one of the most important ports in Europe, a vital gateway to local and national prosperity.

“While the announcement will be a significant jobs boost for our district, I am also pleased that our efforts have largely been successful to ensure that the impact of the expansion on residents and the environment will be minimised.

“The commitment to an improved rail network to encourage more lorries off our roads is commendable, as are the proposals for an acoustic barrier along the A14 in the Trimley area. I also welcome the support and funding being provided for improved visitor facilities at the Languard viewing area and for management of the Languard peninsula.”

John Matthissen , Suffolk co-ordinator for the Green Party, said the development would take up mudflats and although there would be compensatory habitats they would take a long time to become established.

He said: “We think that more and more trade means more and more CO2 emissions so we do not favour it all.

“It's just another step in the wrong direction. The ice is melting and the sort of questions we need to ask is 'will what they are building still be useable if sea levels rise by 22ft?', which all informed opinion was saying a couple of days ago. They do not know how quickly but there is less and less doubt that it is going to happen.

“Felixstowe dock expansion is a very bad idea.”

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